PH moves experts, boosts resilience on climate, pandemic perils

Resilience from typhoons and other climate related hazards, green recovery, and pandemic preparedness – these are just some of the key issues the Philippine government is seeking to address as the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and Climate Change Commission (CCC) jointly spearhead the finalization of the Resilient and Green Human Settlements Framework (RGHSF).

Through the support of UN-Habitat Philippines under the Building Climate Resiliency through Urban Plans and Designs* project, DHSUD and CCC gathered experts from various fields to discuss the current draft framework in a hybrid activity held at the Discovery Suites, Ortigas Center, December 16.

DHSUD Undersecretary Marylin Pintor said that the framework provides a comprehensive guide to integrating public health and climate resilience in human settlements planning.

“It exposes a paradigm shift from conventional development to resilience building by adapting a holistic and inclusive approach to address the combined challenges of climate change, urbanization, and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pintor emphasized.

“It exposes a paradigm shift from conventional development to resilience building by adapting a holistic and inclusive approach to address the combined challenges of climate change, urbanization, and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pintor emphasized.

The undersecretary further explained that the RGHSF is crucial in building adaptive capacities of communities, increasing resilience of vulnerable sectors to climate change, and optimizing mitigation opportunities towards a gender-responsive and human rights-based sustainable development.

The expert group meeting began with the presentation of the draft RGHSF, followed by inputs and comments from the thirteen resource persons invited for the session.

Network of communities and transportation

Green building consultant Louwie Gan (L.A. Gan Associates) highlighted the importance of establishing interconnectivity of green infrastructures, green spaces, and corridors.

UP School of Urban and Regional Planning’s Dr. Dayo Montalbo, expert on transport and mobility, agrees to Gan as he emphasized the need to stipulate reliability of green mass transport systems and role of road networks in the framework.

Looking at connectivity of communities, communications expert Lisa Garcia of the Foundation for Media Alternatives pointed out the need to address digital divide further expanded by the pandemic.

Local economies, green jobs, and food systems

UN-Habitat consultant and social enterprise expert Mark De Castro raised the need to incorporate urban agriculture and social enterprises anchored to local economies that can potentially contribute in poverty reduction.

Moreover, UNIDO Country Representative Ted Monroy, serving as the sustainable industrialization expert, underlined livelihood creation with green jobs by focusing on value-chain perspective and providing social safeguards for vulnerable sectors, especially women.

Food systems expert Marikris De Guzman also called attention to ensuring continuity of farm to table trading in periurban linkages development, eventually considering food security and nutrition in the national spatial strategy.

Inclusivity and participation of sectors

Raising the need to explicitly acknowledge the active role of women in building human settlements resilience, gender expert Dr. Rowena Laguilles of the UP College of Social Work and Community Development sought to strengthen women in sectoral participation and addressing issue of access to housing and other services.

Urban poor participation expert Louie Posadas, Executive Director of the Technical Assistance Movement for People and Environment Inc., placed emphasis on holistic people’s planning process, grassroots leadership, and revitalization of local workers and volunteers.

Empowering local government units

On the other hand, Warren Ubonger, shelter expert and Project Manager of the Rebuilding Marawi Shelter and Livelihood, proposed that the framework should indicate capacity building of local government units (LGUs) to boost localization and implementation while designing communities to maximize natural assets.

UN-Habitat Climate Change Initiative Technical Advisor and climate change planning expert Laids Cea also agrees to this as she recommended supporting LGUs and promoting people-centered collective action to bring the human scale in resilient and green local planning.

Water resource management expert Dr. Patricia Sanchez of the UPLB School of Environmental Science and Management, meanwhile posted the challenge on how many LGUs lack capacity on biodiversity assessments and other extreme events management, thus the need to equip them on such skills to bolster resilience in cities and municipalities.

Water and sanitation

Meanwhile, solid waste management expert Engr. Voltaire Acosta of the Healthy Oceans Clean Cities Initiative suggested to incline public health considerations towards marking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) as essential services.

Like Acosta, water resource management expert Dr. Jihan Adil recommended more sustainable design approaches in water demand management, stricter standards in sanitation, institutionalization of local community efforts on WASH efforts.

A better place for the Filipinos

“Human settlements signify human dignity, and therefore we have to go beyond the land, go beyond the water. We have to go beyond the ancillary services to make sure that human conditions are really fit for purposes of life,” exclaimed Jerome Ilagan of the Climate Change Commission as he provides concluding remarks of the event.

Ilagan likewise encourage the event participants and the framework proponents to continue collaboration to make the country a better place for all of Filipinos.

For the CCC representative, climate science must be at the forefront of resilience building saying, “Science is the first voice, our government actions is the response, then our talent should think beyond 2030.”

“The contribution of our experts today are very valuable so we can proceed to refining the framework, allowing various government agencies to take actions that will eventually uplift resilience in our cities and communities,” said UN-Habitat Philippines Country Programme Manager Christopher Rollo.

Rollo closed the activity as he mentioned next steps in finalizing the RGHSF which includes inter-agency consultations and presentation of the framework to the government’s Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation – Disaster Risk Reduction.

*Building Climate Resiliency through Urban Plans and Designs (BCRUPD) supports the Philippine government in improving policies, regulations, and capacities to adapt to climate change through the promotion of climate-responsive sustainable urban development plans and designs. BCRUPD is implemented by UN-Habitat and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development in partnership with other key government agencies. The project is funded by the German Federal Government’s International Climate Initiative (IKI).

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For many cities, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing issues in poverty and inequality including challenges in employment and livelihood, transport and accessibility, access to basic services, and security of tenure. The ones who suffered the worst impact are the marginalized urban populations. It is then vital to understand the situation of the urban poor to inform the facilitation and conduct of resilient and green recovery in the cities.

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